John F. Kennedy’s Pain Story

JFK-Tennant

This is a great informational article, written in September, 2012 Practical Pain Management.

Some short exerpts:

The 1962 edition of Dorland’s Medical Dictionary does not even list autoimmune disease.13 The 1965 edition of Current Therapy only refers to “autoimmune reactions.”14 Slowly but surely the medical profession began to accept the fact that the body may actually turn on itself. In contrast to the 1962 edition, Dorland’s Medical Dictionary in 1981 defined autoimmunity as “a condition characterized
by a specific humoral or cell-mediated immune response against the constituents
of the body’s own tissues.”15 By 1989, Taber’s Medical Dictionary succinctly
defined autoimmune disease as we view it today: “Disease in which the body produces [a] disordered immunological response against itself

Summary
Pain management practices are now seeing patients with genetic autoimmune
diseases similar to that of JFK’s. Unfortunately, autoimmunity may be
a progressive lifelong disease that produces severe pain, which may become
centralized in the CNS. Fortunately for JFK, he was referred to Dr. Travell
for pain management in 1955. She was undoubtedly the best pain management
physician at the time. Her treatment regimen was comprehensive and
consisted of medication, exercises, and physical rehabilitation. It was the forerunner
of contemporary treatment for severe centralized pain.

Writing in the The Atlantic, Dallek noted that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK before the president’s medical ailments could. 1 In fact, Dallek surmises that “the evidence suggests Kennedy’s physical condition contributed to his demise.” On November 22, 1963, JFK was wearing a corset-like back brace as he rode in a caravan of official vehicles through Dallas. Oswald’s first bullet struck JFK in the back of the neck. “Were it not for the back brace, which held the President erect [and not slumped over], the second, fatal shot to the head might not have found its mark,” he concluded.

Despite this anecdote, it is clear that JFK would never have been in that convertible
on that fateful day if it had not been for the skill of his pain physician. Practitioners of pain management as well as pain patients should study the case of JFK. There are many lessons to be learned. Above all, his pain story is one of great will, desire, and discipline
on the part of both patient and physician.

References

1. Dallek R. The medical ordeals of JFK. The Atlantic.
Dec 2002. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/
archive/2002/12/the-medical-ordeals-of-jfk/5572/.
Accessed August 3, 2012.

13. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 23rd ed.
Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 1962.
14. Lovell RG. Autoimmune reactions. Current Therapy.
In: Conn HF, ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders;
1965:425.
15. Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 26th ed.
Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 1981:141.

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